Ben from Carlton, Victoria, Australia asked:

Do burnt or browned foods (baked, cooked or fried) contain a protein that causes cancer?

Burnt food and cancer

Is there a safe consumption level for this protein or is it like cigarettes and alcohol where even one dose raises the risk of cancer?

The source:
Our answer

When starchy foods like bread and potatoes are cooked at very high temperatures (over 120°C) in a process of frying, roasting or baking, they can produce a chemical substance called acrylamide. Acrylamide is used in some industrial processes and is found in cigarette smoke and some foods. The chemical is not deliberately added to foods, it is a naturally occurring by-product formed by the reaction between amino acids and sugars. While there is no direct evidence that acrylamide cause cancer in humans, laboratory tests have shown that high doses of acrylamide in the diet causes cancer in animals. As a result, food authorities recommended reducing exposure to burnt and very browned foods. There are a couple of things you can do to reduce the presence of acrylamide at home: 1. Aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting; 2. Follow cooking instruction on packaged foods; 3. Don’t keep raw potatoes in the fridge. To reduce your cancer risk, focus on the confirmed risk factors – not smoking, protecting yourself against UV radiation, aiming for a healthy weight, having a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, eating red meat in moderation and limiting processed meat, reducing alcohol consumption and being physically active.

This page was last updated on: March 7, 2017

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